The Worst Mindslaver Ever: U.S. Nationals Day 2

I swing with the Dragon, taking Mike down to eight. Then I cast Mindslaver and activate it. Mike uptaps his permanents, hands me his hand, and I draw…

From my own deck.

[Editorial Note: These got lost in my mailbox for a while. Sorry for the delay in posting it.]

Welcome to the conclusion of my extended Nationals report. You can find part one here. To those of you who have stuck around for the ride, thanks for your patience. To those of you just joining in, there’s nothing you have to read in part one in order to appreciate this half of the report.

The report is long, and I can’t stand when people write those extended stories about struggling to get to the tournament on time and having near death experiences on the way there.

Some writers like to provide a teaser before all this reading. Rather than do that-why would I ever do such a thing?-I’ll just point to the title. Curious isn’t it? Aren’t you supposed to pretty much win the game when you activate Mindslaver and the ability resolves? Well, there’s an interesting story to be told there… eventually.

Draft 2 (Rounds 8-10)

I get my pod information via cell phone text message. Isn’t that the coolest feature? Filling out that little form with my name, DCI number, and phone number was the best use of time all weekend. No waiting in long lines. You can relax up until the very minute before new rounds begin. Of course, sometimes the pairings mysteriously don’t appear at all because of random technical glitches. Anyway, I sit down at this table:

Pod 8

1 Rust, Frederic (58th)

2 Merchant, Sameer (49th)

3 Hans, Jeff (35th)

4 Faulkner, Brant (98th)

5 Lebedowicz, Osyp (11th)

6 Sullivan, Patrick (47th)

7 Bramlett, Nathan (63rd)

8 Boehm, Greg (124th)

I’m just starting to get comfortable when a judge announces that we’re going to be reseated. I ended up at the same table, but I’m sure that the order listed above (from magicthegathering.com) isn’t right, since Sameer wasn’t sitting next to me.

This seems like a much more reasonable pod than the one I ended up in yesterday. The only powerhouse name I recognize is Osyp Lebedowicz. Plus, now I’m used to the sepulchral and structured ambiance of drafting at Nationals. So I draft Mirrodin block for my fourth time and here’s what I end up with:


8 Mountain

8 Plains

1 Darksteel Citadel

Alpha Myr

Battered Golem

Thermal Navigator

Arcbound Hybrid

Razor Golem

Rust Elemental

Pyrite Spellbomb

Pyrite Spellbomb

Spikeshot Goblin

Krark-Clan Stoker

Krark-Clan Ogre

Krark-Clan Ogre

Ogre Leadfoot

Rustmouth Ogre

Barbed Lightning

Savage Beating

Auriok Transfixer

Leonin Squire

Loxodon Anchorite

Loxodon Anchorite

Awe Strike

Test of Faith

Razor Barrier

My first three picks are Spellbombs and Spikey, putting me clearly in Red. After that, I try to cut off White to the greatest extent possible, unfortunately good White men and equipment prove to be non-existent in the Mirrodin packs.

Darksteel starts off very well, with Razor Golem, Barbed Lightning, and Test of Faith, but then it dries up completely. Savage Beating is a surprisingly good late pick. Nevertheless, it’s clear going into the final pack that I have a crisis of men.

Fifth Dawn starts off truly amazing as I first-pick Loxodon Anchorite, and then get passed a second one. Strangely, I don’t see any other decent White cards aside from Leonin Squire. If the opponent to my right passed an Anchorite, he can’t be in White, and even if the next person up stream is drafting white, it’s hard to believe that he could cut it off entirely. I think-Anchorites aside-I just got stuck on the short end of the stick with some packs weak in White. Thus Red needs to save the day. Yeah right. Red, is pretty terrible in Fifth Dawn, so bad that I practically whoop for joy when I get passed two Krark-Clan Ogres.

I’m thrilled (disillusioned) with how my deck turns out. Sure, my dorky creatures outnumber the good ones, but I have excellent combat tricks, good removal, and Savage Beating to steal wins. I think I constructed the deck properly with one exception: Rust Elemental. I just didn’t have enough artifacts to properly feed this guy, but when I was building my deck I justified it as a nice finisher. After every game I swapped out the Elemental for Myr Quadropod-another man to go with the dork theme.

Round 8: Jeff Hans (35th) B/U/w

Game one: Jeff wins the roll and decides to draw. That’s fine with me, since my deck has a nice mana curve, but my opening hand has no lands, so I send it back.

My creature light draw does not work out well against Terror, Essence Drain, and Devour in Shadow. Grimclaw Bats, Blind Creeper, and Cranial Plating make short work of me.

-1 Rust Elemental

-1 Krark-Clan Ogre

-1 Krark-Clan Ogre

+2 Molten Rain

+1 Myr Quadropod

I know the Rust Elemental is bad, so it goes. Myr Quadropod, while pretty lame, can at least block Blind Creeper. The Molten Rain plan is desperate, but Jeff’s deck is slower than mine and his mana base is less consistent, so I decide to give it a shot.

Game two: I’m out for revenge. Auriok Transfixer comes down right off the bat, attacks for one the next turn, and is joined by Battered Golem the turn after. The Golem and Fixer get into the red zone once, taking Jeff down to fifteen.

Jeff casts a 3/3 Suntouched Myr, thanks to an assist from Ancient Den. All three colors of mana so soon without any fixers, that’s not really fair. On my turn, I could tap Jeff’s Myr and push through another hit with my Golem, but I decide to wait and do things at the end of his turn.

Jeff attacks with the Myr on his turn, so I tap it down with the Transfixer. Then he tries to Terror my little tapper. I don’t think so…

Razor Barrier.

Then Jeff plays Vulshok Gauntlets-no problem. On my turn I rip Razor Golem off the top, which works perfectly with my Plains-heavy mana development. Jeff struggles to find warm bodies. He equips his Suntouched Myr and swings at me. I take the seven points. Then he casts Sunbeam Spellbomb and passes his turn.

At the end of his turn I use Auriok Transfixer to tap his Ancient Den. I wait for him to sack the Spellbomb for life in response. He lets the Fixer’s ability resolve without tapping for white mana.

I kill him the next turn with an alpha strike backed up by Barbed Lightning.

Game three: my deck curves out beautifully.

T1: Auriok Transfixer

T2: Alpha Myr

T3 : Molten Rain

T4 : Arcbound Hybrid

Jeff ruins my offensive momentum by playing Blind Creeper on his third turn. Almost immediately after that, I start to get land flooded. I can’t manage to draw a single removal spell or combat trick that will help me punch through the Creeper. Through some miracle, I still manage to get Jeff down to 4. But at that point he leaves me in the dust in this damage race, compliments of Grimclaw Bats wearing Cranial Plating.

Games 1-2, Matches 0-1

Losing a close third game like that was rough. In my defense, Jeff’s deck was pretty insane. He revealed afterwards that he had two Blind Creepers, as well as Thought Courier. Every time Blind Creeper hit the board is messed me up really badly. I have two Pyrite Spellbombs to answer the Creeper, but I never drew them. And I never once managed to untap with Loxodon Anchorite in play. Oh well, at least I didn’t play this match away; it seemed to come down to the draws more than anything else.

Round 9: Sameer Merchant (49th) G/W

Alright, another celebrity, this time the man who won Regionals with Elf and Nail. Sameer is an awesome guy: an excellent Magic player, friendly, and humble. I did the all-too-typical”hey you’re the Elf and Nail guy,” something he’s probably so sick of by now. He immediately responded that he didn’t come up with the deck and that Chris Chang and someone else whose name I forget (sorry about that) designed Elf and Nail. He”just” played it.

Game one: Unfortunately, our games are pretty lame. Sameer gets stuck on two lands and I drop Razor Golem on turn 4. I add a few random dorks to the fix and feel badly about winning so easily.

-1 Rust Elemental

+1 Myr Quadropod

In general the Rust Elemental is pretty marginal. Against Sameer, it’s an even greater liability than usual. Arrest on Rust Elemental is a one-sided Molder Slug combo against me. Ouch, I can’t let that happen.

Game two: it goes better-in the sense of a healthy competitive game-for us, but it’s much worse for me in terms of success. While I’m searching for gas, Sameer draws extra cards off Serum Tank.

Tangle Asp is annoying, but it doesn’t really scare me.

Tyrannax comes down and now I am starting to get scared.

Arcbound Fiend enters play and now I’m really sweating it.

What happens next? Well, obviously I’m on the defensive, but not all is lost since I have an active Loxodon Anchorite. Sameer enters his attack step and taps four lands. That’s a strange time to play combat tricks, I think to myself. What the hell is going on? What costs four mana, is Green or White, an instant, and is good during combat? Maybe this is obvious to a Mirrodin draft veteran, but I sure as hell was surprised…


Let me tell you, Bloodscent on Tangle Asp is one hell of a combo. I never knew that Green/White could Wrath of God only one side of the board in this format.

Game three: so, after two blow-out games, the final one should be a good one, right? I play first, of course, because I need to win quickly before his big creatures, which are so much better than mine start hitting the board.

My opening hand has only one land, so I throw it back. My next hand has five lands and Razor Golem. The Golem comes out on turn 3, followed by a dork or two. Sameer’s big early plays are Auriok Bladewarden and Tangle Asp-this time I’m very afraid of it. I Barbed Lightning the Tangle Asp and get in a few hits with the Golem, sending Sameer down to eight life.

Sameer starts to pull out his stall and I get flooded with more lands, but when I hit that seventh land I unleash…

Savage Beating with entwine.

Games: 3-3, Matches 1-1

I shake Sameer’s hand afterward, as I always try to do-though sometimes I forget, or sometimes I’m too annoyed or distracted-and apologize for winning that way. A win is a win, but when where you cut your opponent’s deck (sending all the land to the bottom) has more of an effect on a game than how your opponent plays, Magic just isn’t at its interactive best.

Round 10: Nathan A. Bramlett (63rd) B/U/w Control

Game one: I get a fast start and beat my opponent down to sixteen, totally uncontested. Nathan makes his fourth land drop and plays Silent Arbiter. He’s fat (1/5) and I have no artifact removal in my deck. All I need to do is topdeck my uber-powerful creature bomb that exists so clearly in my dreams.

Not all hope is lost, as Spikeshot Goblin makes an appearance at last. Maybe with some serious luck, I’ll be able to cast Test of Faith and get an extra counter or two on Spikey.

But Spikey doesn’t stick around long. I don’t even get to untap with him in play, because he gets Devoured in Shadow. Things go from bad to worse. Nathan plays Talon of Pain, which is pretty combolicious with Silent Arbiter. Then he drops Spire Golem and Advanced Hoverguard.

He beats me down slowly in the air, activating the Talon as necessary to counteract any defensive measures I try to set up. I lose the game feeling totally helpless and very annoyed.

-1 Rust Elemental

-1 Krark-Clan Ogre

-1 Krark-Clan Ogre

+2 Molten Rain

+1 Myr Quadropod

I sideboard the same as I did in round eight; after all, it’s like I’m playing the same match over again. Aren’t I lucky?

Game two: I’d like to tell you that everything turns around this game, but it doesn’t. I mulligan a zero-threat hand into a zero-land hand into a barely passable hand. For those of you who are as bad at math as I am, that means that I start my first turn with five cards to Nathan’s eight (including the draw).

Nevertheless, I don’t go down without a hell of a fight. Thanks to some savage topdecking, I get out Razor Golem on turn 3. The Golem single-handedly takes Nathan down to eleven.

After that, the war of card advantage catches up to me. Nathan plays a bunch of men, stalls my offense, and crushes me with Cranial Plating. Damn, that Plating card is so unfair. I only like it when I’m playing it.

Games 3-5, Matches 1-2

So the Limited portion of the event finishes up pretty poorly for me. My deck wasn’t nearly as good as I initially thought. Good creatures and card advantage are an important part of Limited. While on day one I lost games and matches after making myriad play errors, on day two I played pretty well, but my deck just wouldn’t quite come together. I got pretty lucky with Razor Golem, but that’s about it. I hardly ever drew Pyrite Spellbomb or Loxodon Anchorite. Savage Beating won me one game, but never got cast any other times. Leonin Squire never returned Spellbombs from my graveyard to hand and Spikeshot Goblin never benefited from Test of Faith.

Whine, whine, whine. Whatever. I played much better than the day before, and for that I have to be proud.

Standard (Rounds 11-14)

What a welcome relief. Recognizable decks. Cards I’m familiar with. And a deck in my hands that has proven itself beyond my wildest expectations. Thanks to my limited debacle I’m not finishing in the money, but I can settle on making an undefeated run through Standard.

I’ve listed the deck in my report on day 1, and you can find it on magicthegathering.com, but for the purpose of convenience, here it is again:


12 Plains

1 Secluded Steppe

1 Forest

4 Windswept Heath

2 Mirrodin’s Core

4 Cloudpost

3 Temple of the False God

2 Solemn Simulacrum

2 Mindslaver

4 Eternal Dragon

3 Renewed Faith

3 Wing Shards

3 Pulse of the Fields

4 Wrath of God

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

4 Decree of Justice

4 Oxidize


4 Circle of Protection: Red

4 Purge

3 Duplicant

3 Sacred Ground

1 Mindslaver

Round 11: Mike Reilly (60th) Elf and Nail

Game one: I win the die roll and play first. Mike throws back his first hand and keeps his next six cards.

His first land is a Forest, so he’s probably playing with Elves and that supersized Green Demonic Tutor that puts two creatures directly into play. As many people know, Wood Elves and Wirewood Symbiote can get out of hand really fast; I’m really glad that I’m playing first.

Mike taps the Forest and I’m about to shudder, since Birds of Paradise on turn 1 is the first phase of his deck’s God draw…

Wirewood Symbiote comes into play.

I can handle that. And handle it I do. That Symbiote spends the next four turns in the red zone, taking me all the way down to fifteen (Windswept Heath for the odd point). At that point I cast Pulse of the Fields and go back up to nineteen. That’s basically all that happens for the first five turns. In the meantime Mike sacks three Wooded Foothills to thin out his library, but it doesn’t help. I cycle some cards and start recurring Eternal Dragon.

Eventually Wood Elves join the Symbiote, which forces me to cast Wrath of God. Yes, you really do have to blow a Wrath on that little 1/1. Don’t even debate it. Just do it before your opponent is playing 3 lands every turn.

Along the way, I Oxidize a Skullclamp, and at some point a Viridian Shaman starts beating me down, but it’s all pretty irrelevant. Mike can’t find the gas in his deck. With no Plains left in my deck, the Eternal Dragon finally starts swinging for the win, followed by Soldiers.

-3 Pulse of the Field

-1 Akroma’s Vengeance

+3 Duplicant

+1 Mindslaver

Again, it’s hard to figure you what should go for to make room for the fourth sideboard slot. I make the wrong decision this game, cutting one of my only answers to Vernal Bloom and it almost costs me the match.

Game two: things go a little bit better for Mike. He gets out a quick Vernal Bloom and has me sweating. Luckily, he doesn’t find Tooth and Nail right away. My hand has two Mindslaver, but it takes a while to develop my mana base and make use of them.

What really scares me is that Akroma’s Vengeance is nowhere to be seen, no matter how much I cycle and thin my library. Turn after turn I watch Mike tap the top of his deck, hoping for the big Tooth. Since he makes lots of land drops, it gets to the point where any Tooth would be lethal, since he could put out Kamahl/Triskelion, cripple my land base, and then overrun me with a whole bunch of his own lands the next turn.

I cycle Renewed Faith at the end of his turn, tapping a Forest and a Plains. Then I untap, and draw, looking for something good like Decree of Justice

Did you catch it?

Neither did I. During this match, I’m sitting at the edge of the play area, with my back to the walkway through the center of the convention room, and by now quite a few players have gathered behind me to watch, including Osyp Lebedowicz. One of them calls a judge as I start my turn.

The judge comes over and my whole body tenses. What did I do wrong? Are spectators allowed to comment on the state of the game? Aren’t they supposed to keep quiet? Did my opponent cheat? Did I cheat?

The judge explains that he’s been”informed” that there was some mana left over at the end of the last turn.

I tell the judge that all I did was tap two lands to cycle Renewed Faith at the end of Mike’s turn. What’s wrong with that? How could I be doing this and cheating? I’m getting more nervous and defensive by the moment.

Then I realize what happened. It’s not how many lands I tapped but which lands. Forest and Plains, which make GGW with Vernal Bloom in play. I admit the error to the judge, take a point of mana burn, and finish my turn.

But the incident has thrown me off and I can hear the crowd behind me commenting on every move I make, oooing and ahhhing when I draw cards. I’m getting self-conscious-something that rarely happens and doesn’t bode well for my playing.

I cast Eternal Dragon and pass the turn. Since Mike is at thirteen life, he’s not on a three-turn clock. Mike knocks the top of his deck and draws…


I swing with the Dragon, taking Mike down to eight. Then I cast Mindslaver and activate it. Mike uptaps his permanents, hands me his hand, and I draw…

From my own deck.

Mike notices it immediately and calls a judge. I’m so dumbfounded by my stupidity that it takes me a few moments to even figure out what’s going on. The judge comes over, is uncertain about the exact ruling and disappears to check on something. He comes back with the official word…

Game loss for me.

I have two more Mindslavers in hand and Mike’s at eight life. My Eternal Dragon is going to kill him before he ever gets to have another real turn. The only way for Mike to win was for me to do something incredibly stupid. As the cacophonous laughter of the crowd behind me sinks in I struggle to come to grips with the fact that I just threw my first Standard match of the tournament.

Games 1-1, Matches 0-0-1

It’s a really tough way to start the last four rounds. These things happen though at high level events when there’s lots of pressure. There’s a moral to the story…. If someone or some group of people is distracting your playing, call a judge and they will be asked to leave or be quiet. Between the mana burning (something Bill Stead did in the finals, too), and the drone of voices and reactions behind me, I lost my focus on the game. When that happens in a match, for whatever reason, you need to pause and figure out what you need to do to regain your focus, before making your next play.

At least the next round can’t get any worse.

Round 12: Brad A. Taulbee (99th) Elf and Nail

I’m sitting in practically the same place as before, and I’m surrounded by Elf and Nail decks. My last round opponent, Mike, is sitting diagonally across from me. Sameer Merchant-playing guess what?-is sitting to my right. To my left, at another table I see even more Elf and Nail.

I’m in the middle of Elf and Nail world and I need to get out. This is the last deck I wanted to play against again. At least I have a chance to redeem myself with Mindslaver.

Game one: Brad gets out some mana creatures, followed by the Wirewood Symbiote Wood Elves combo. Fortunately, I Wrath of God on turn 4. Brad doesn’t draw Skullclamp and before he can muster any pressure I cast two Angels that go all the way.

-3 Pulse of the Fields

-1 Renewed Faith

+3 Duplicant

+1 Mindslaver

I finally come up with the proper boarding plan. The Pulses always go, but it’s always finding that fourth card to cut that’s difficult. Faith has to go so all four Vengeances can stay. You need an answer for every copy of Vernal Bloom Elf and Nail has. Letting Bloom sit on the board is just too dangerous.

Game two: things start off pretty well for me. Early Cloudposts provide much-needed acceleration. Brad plays a few non-threatening men and I’m feeling pretty good. Then Vernal Bloom comes out and there’s nothing I can do about it. But it’s the turn after the Bloom that really kills me.

Plow Under hits all my Green mana sources.

Brad uses the opening to play Skullclamp and activate it two or three times. Then he hits me with a second Plow Under. That’s basically scooping time, but I decide to hand in there for the hell of it. Maybe he’ll draw a card off the top of my deck and get a game loss.

On my turn I play Forest and Oxidize Skullclamp, just for the hell of it. Because I hate the Clamp! Brad’s turn is more impressive…

Tooth and Nail with entwine.

Game three: my notes are sketchy for this one. Wirewood Herald beats me down for a couple of turns, but then I have to Wrath it away because Wirewood Symbiote joins the fray. Brad fetches Fierce Empath, and eventually the Empath gets Kamahl, I think. It doesn’t really matter, because we’re moving into the late game and I’m starting to draw Duplicant and Mindslaver. Tooth and Nail goes off at some point, but it’s easily contained.

Two Angels finish the job.

Games 3-2, Matches 1-0-1

Round 13: Andrew R. Larson (78th) Aggro Beasts

I didn’t take detailed notes on this match-up, so this only presents some of the highlights of games.

Game one: I draw Pulse of the Fields and global removal spells so I win.

-4 Oxidize

-2 Mindslaver

+3 Sacred Ground

+3 Duplicant

Nothing too tricky here. Sacred Ground is usually the wrong card to side in, but you bring it as an emergency measure in a matchup that is already tremendously favorable. Duplicant is surprisingly awesome when Ravenous Baloth isn’t in play.

Game two: Andrew plays Hunted Wumpus on turn 3. Luckily, I happen to have Eternal Dragon in hand, so I get it into play for free out of the deal. The bad news is that the Wumpus is 6/6 and my Dragon is 5/5, so I’m forced into a strange position, going aggro with a control deck very early in the game. It should work out fine, thanks to my removal spells and life gain, but I’m in a strange way.

I swing on my turn and don’t do anything. Andrew follows up with Arc-Slogger. Now things are getting really interesting – the bad kind of interesting. This forces me into a situation where I hold the Dragon back on defense, hoping to stall the ground a little and draw into some removal.

Andrew attacks with the Wumpus and my valiant Dragon chump blocks. Wow, I can’t remember the last time Eternal Dragon chump blocked anything. I must be in big trouble.

The next turn I drop to ten life from the Beast assault. I finally, manage to find a removal spell and wipe the board clean. In response, Andrew activates Arc-Slogger three times, taking me down to four. As he mills away he library I see Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] and suddenly I realize that this might be game over for me.

Andrew untaps, draws, and Pulses me for the win.

Damn, that was horrible. Losing a game to Beasts? I thought this matchup was unwinnable for them, around 95-5 or 90-10, or so. Misplaying my own Mindslaver I can handle, but losing a match to Beasts is something I might never get over.

You see, I have a long and turbulent history against this deck. At 2003 Regionals I lost with my crazy W/U/b Convalescent Care control deck to Beasts, after stomping several U/G Madness decks, ending up 5-2. Beasts crushed in round seven.

At 2004 Regionals, where I played Mono-Red Goblins I encountered Beasts again in round seven. I split the first two games and narrowly lost game three with my opponent at two life. This may not be round seven at Nationals, but I’ve been annihilating Beast decks every since I constructed MWC+g and I’m not about to stop now. The Beasts must die.

Game three: Andrew gets another fast start; this time with a fine piece of sideboard technology known as Karstoderm. The undercosted Green Beast takes me down to ten. In the meantime Andres is mana burning himself aggressively. The damn Karstoderm even survives an Akroma’s Vengeance. No my opponent wasn’t cheating. He actually cast Vitality Charm, regenerating the Beast in response.

I finally manage to kill Karstoderm with Wing Shards-regenerate from that! Ravenous Baloth takes Karstoderm’s place. The Baloth and Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] take me down to two life. Please…this isn’t happening.

Pulse of the Fields off the top springs me back to six and returns to hand since Andrew is still at ten. He mana burns down to six. Somehow, I deal with the Ravenous Baloth. Then I cycle Renewed Faith to go up to eight. Without any other options or tricks in hand, I cast Eternal Dragon, hoping Andrew won’t have enough burn for the win. At the end of my turn, Andrew mana burns down to three.

Three, what is the significant of that number? If he hits me with Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], it will take me down to 4, which is still greater than 3 and means that he’ll get to Pulse me again for the win. But he only has three Red mana sources in play. Andrew untaps and draws…

Not another Red mana source.

He even shows me the Pulse in hand. I tell him there was nothing I could do to stop it. On my turn I swing with my Dragon for the win.

Games 5-3, Matches 2-0-1

Games two and three I really struggled to draw removal, especially Wrath of God. Andrew packed lots of anti-control technology, mana burned aggressively to keep me honest with Pulse of the Fields, and played superbly in general. I was surprised to see Beasts still hanging around in the upper portion of Standard, but, after seeing his deck and his skill with it, I know understand why.

Round 14: Gabe R. Walls (36th) R/g Goblins

My phone beeps with pairings for the final round and I can’t believe who I’m playing against. It’s another big name. How cool would it be to say that I played at Nationals and beat Gabe Walls?

Game one: before we even start to play, Gabe is complaining about how he hates playing against White decks. He starts off with Mountain, mana burn. Then he follows up with Sparksmith.

Our playing is very sloppy, since Gabe always puts mana into his pool and burns when I’m in the middle of my turn trying to do something. And he’s talking to his friends at other tables, joking around, and trying to force me to play faster. It’s pretty damn annoying and it throws my game off a little bit, but not enough.

It’s pretty hilarious when I’m at seven life while he’s at eight entirely from self-inflicted pain. I Pulse up to eleven life, knowing that I might as well do it now, because it will never be returning to my hand.

Gabe taps out and slaps down Rorix Bladewing, already in the sideways position for an attack. Wow, that’s some pretty serious technology for the mirror match. I never saw that coming. Too bad for him…

Wing Shards.

That’s his deck’s last gasp, and a horde of Angels easily finish off my mana-burned opponent.

-2 Mindslaver

-1 Eternal Dragon

-1 Akroma’s Vengeance

+4 Circle of Protection: Red

Well, I’m glad to see that those COPs will finally get some use. Sideboarding is pretty basic. You take out the slow stuff and put in the enchantment that can shut down his entire deck. Seems like a pretty good deal. Oxidize stays in because Skullclamp must be coming in against me.

Game two: I Paris a hand that is good on lands but totally lacking on removal. Gabe goes like this:

T1: Mountain, Skirk Prospector

T2: Mountain, sack Prospector, play Goblin Warchief, attack for 2

T3: Land, Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Sledder, attack for 8

T4: Land, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Sharpshooter, attack for 15

At the end of Gabe’s second turn I cycle Renewed Faith, going to twenty-two. The Chief puts me at twenty, and the following attack drops me to twelve. Gabe acts like it’s game over on this fourth turn is practically about to shuffle up for game three, but I have responses.

Wing Shards.

Gabe focuses and asks me a serious question:”When do you cast it?”

I pause for a moment, sensing the trap, making sure that I give the correct answer the first time.”In response to Goblin Piledriver’s triggered ability going on the stack.”

Gabe smiles,”That’s a good play.”

Gabe sacrifice’s the Goblin Sledder to the stormed copy of Wing Shards, untaps the Sharpshooter, and shoots me for one. Then he repeats the same process with his second Warchief. Finally, he sacrifices the Goblin Sharpshooter to Wing Shards. So now I’m at ten life, facing a Warchief and a Piledriver. The Piledriver’s triggered ability finally resolves, and I take 5 more points, going down to four.

I take my turn and cast Wrath of God, apparently stabilizing.

Gabe plays Skirk Prospector and Goblin Sharpshooter on his turn. Not too threatening. I can handle that. I topdeck Decree of Justice, but I decide to hold back with it, wanting to wait another turn so that I can get one more Angel.

Gabe makes his fifth land drop and slaps down Siege-Gang Commander. Since his Sharpshooter is active and he can sack goblins to the Prospector, he has just over enough damage to kill me unless I have life gain.

I don’t.

Game three: Gabe is really talking up a storm now after beating one of the White decks that he hates so much. I keep a lackluster hand because I’m afraid of mulliganing into something worse. It has lands and some stuff that cycles so it can’t be that bad.

Gabe lays his seven cards on the table. He turns to some of his buddies playing at a table behind him.

“Should I keep this hand?” he asks them.

He can’t really be doing this, I think to myself. His friend says yes and Gabe tells me he’s keeping.

The game goes almost exactly like the previous one, only two things are different. This time Goblin Goon starts hitting me on turn 3, and I don’t have Wing Shards. Gabe kills me on turn 4.

Gabe turns around and starts bragging about how Goblins beat a White deck. His friends are laughing. At least the laughter isn’t as loud as when I threw that game with my own Mindslaver.

Games 6-5, Matches 2-1-1

So the day and the tournament end with a big letdown for me. I really wanted to beat Gabe. He can be a really annoying opponent, and that’s how he gets an edge, by getting in your head, distracting you, and causing you to make mistakes. I don’t think it really affected my playing that much, though. Overall, my deck’s behavior bothered me much more than my opponent’s.

A deck can only do so much, and it was time for karma to swing the other way. After a rampage through thirteen rounds of Constructed (including the grinder), I had to get stuck with some horrible draws and topdecks at some point. Plus, I managed to Jedi cut the decks of many Elf and Nail players, making sure that no gas would appear until it was too late.

Here’s the final breakdown:

Constructed – Games 12-6, Matches 5-1-1

Limited – Games 7-11, Matches 2-5

Combined – Games 19-17, Matches 7-6-1

Wrapping It Up

Every deck that went 6-1 in the Constructed portion of Nationals had four Skullclamps in it. I’m pretty damn proud that my deck managed 5-1-1 without Skullclamps, and it very well could have been 6-1 if I hadn’t activated Mindslaver to donate target game to target opponent. Nevertheless, Nationals was a blast. I had a great time and played against some great opponents (famous names like Shvartsman and Walls as well as strangers who were notable for their sportsmanship). Finishing with a winning record and in 58th place is better than anything I ever expected. Hell, I didn’t even think I’d be playing in Nationals at all.

The excitement continued right up until the final round of day three. I never imagined that I might get to watch my deck battle it out for the title of National Champion. If Bill Stead had Duplicant in his sideboard, like I did, maybe things would have turned out differently.

Thanks again to everyone who made my run at Nationals possible: my parents, my girlfriend, Mark, Andy, and Susanne.

And thanks to you for reading,

Take it easy,


P.S. If anyone would like to drop me a line and direct me to the most authoritative or helpful Limited articles online, I’d more than appreciate the help.

P.P.S. I won my first MD5 draft last weekend, so maybe there’s hope for my limited game.